Politics

Environmentalists want oilsands out of premiers' Canadian energy strategy

A dozen environmental groups say they want to see Canada's premiers agree to an energy strategy that would halt oilsands development and the infrastructure that would support it, such as pipelines, oil train facilities and tankers.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has given qualified support to the Energy East pipeline

Environmental activists stand in front of the hotel in St. John's Thursday, where Canada's premiers and territorial leaders are gathered for their annual summer meeting. The premiers are trying to advance agreement on a national energy strategy. (CBC)

A dozen environmental groups across Canada say there should be no role for oilsands growth in a Canadian energy strategy.

Canada's premiers are meeting St. John's, N.L., and an energy agreement is high on the agenda.

The groups want a strategy that would halt oilsands development and the infrastructure that would support it, such as pipelines, oil train facilities and tankers.

They also want the provinces to make clean energy infrastructure a higher priority than new oil and gas proposals.

The notion of a Canadian energy strategy came about in 2012 under then-Alberta premier Alison Redford.

A big component of that vision was improving market access for Alberta crude by building support for new pipeline infrastructure.

"Approving tarsands pipelines like Energy East and Kinder Morgan, which is what this strategy appears to do, would lock in high carbon emissions and make it practically impossible for Canada to reach its climate reduction targets," said Dale Marshall, national program manager with Environmental Defence.

But Calgary energy company TransCanada criticized Marshall's view.

"If Mr. Marshall is against oil and petroleum products, then what is he willing to give up? Will he give up his cellphone, his laptop, his credit card?" TransCanada spokesman James Millar said in an email.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, left, met with Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard on Tuesday before both headed for the Council of the Federation meeting in St. John's. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

"You can't have it both ways: malign the oilsands and say we should stop development, while at the same time being only too happy to use the products made from oil that enhance our daily lives."

Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley has taken a different approach to pipelines than her Progressive Conservative predecessors. She has said she won't advocate for TransCanada's long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline in the United States or Enbridge's contentious Northern Gateway proposal across British Columbia.

But Notley has given qualified support to Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain expansion to the Vancouver area and TransCanada's Energy East Pipeline to New Brunswick.

"This is the moment when Premier Notley should be signalling a new direction for Alberta that recognizes a strong national energy strategy must be informed by strong climate goals," said Louise Comeau, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada.

Notley and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard discussed Energy East ahead of the premier's meeting. She said she's hopeful Quebec will get behind Energy East as long as it meets the province's environmental and economic requirements.

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